MacBook Pro with Mac OS X Server Installed: Why It's Not Supported

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A while ago I had an authentication problem with Mac OS X Server 10.4.9. I set up my classroom server with a specific account (Sharon Accounte), and my students were supposed to authenticate to their server, which was connected to my server. Instead, they received an error denying access, and suggesting that the account was wrong. I checked the account on the server, authenticated locally without any trouble, so I knew it wasn't the account. I then checked the server logs, and found no errors within the Directory or Password Server logs.

I then checked with other Server Essentials instructors to see what the problem could be. Everyone suggested checking the directory entry using the command line tool dscl. This tool will let you navigate the directory entry as though it were a file system, and you can read the authentication information the server provides. While checking this, I noticed that everything was being provided, and stumped the other instructors as to what the cause could be.

Well, after running some tests after the class, I found out what the issue was. First, it's important to note that I had used a MacBook Pro as the server (our lab is mobile, and it was the most convenient way to get it done), so the problem is not typical as laptops are not a supported platform for Server. Next, I had upgraded to 10.4.9, which provided Airport support (and didn't crash the system as 10.4.8 did).

Before I had upgraded, the authentication worked just fine. After upgrading, it wouldn't authenticate, and there were no errors in the Password Server log. It seems that, at least for a laptop install, the server has trouble authenticating with later releases (I haven't tried 10.4.10 yet).

So, for anyone out there that is using a MacBook or MacBook Pro as their mobile lab server, this may be of some use. I'll test it with 10.4.10 next week during the Server class Challenge. For now, the base install of 10.4.7 on a MacBook Pro will work, sans the Airport. But, as the server should be connected through Ethernet anyway, it shouldn't be that much of a problem.

But the question still remains: What is significantly different from the Mac Pro to the MacBook Pro that would cause the server to fail in authenticating without providing error log entries? I'm not sure I will ever find out, but at least I now know that the classroom server will work just fine, and I don't have to lug around a Mac Pro just to teach a class.